woman clutching her stomach

How to Relieve Diarrhea During Drug and Alcohol Detox


Sober Recovery Expert Author

woman clutching her stomach

For those who have the desire, dedication, and commitment to drug or alcohol treatment, the first step is often detox.

Detox involves withdrawal from either drugs or alcohol. It can be an unpleasant experience and for many, it is difficult to handle. Prolonged usage of a substance can change the way the body functions so that the body is reliant on the substance to function normally. Detoxing shocks the body, which results in sickness. Symptoms such as diarrhea, muscle aches, runny nose, sweating, chills, and nausea can become intense, especially during the initial stages of detox.

During the early stages of detox, severe diarrhea and cramping can last anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks.

Serious Symptoms

During the early stages of detox, severe diarrhea and cramping can last anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks which makes medical monitoring of the situation absolutely essential. Dehydration due to diarrhea is a serious risk in withdrawal and may even require hospitalization in the direst situations.

There are steps that can be taken to relieve the uncomfortable side effect of diarrhea including prescriptions, natural options, and even food choices.

Anti Diarrhea Medicine

  • Imodium. This over-the-counter (OTC) remedy may help in less serious conditions. It helps prevent and treat diarrhea by slowing down digestion and intestinal movement.

  • Other OTC Options. Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol may also prove useful for nausea and loose stools. These OTC options will temporarily relieve the stomach and gastrointestinal tract distress symptoms, such as diarrhea.

  • Clonidine. First used to help reduce anxiety and agitation, this prescription drug is backed by research to function as an anti-diarrheal during opiate withdrawal. Researchers have stated that Clonidine “should be considered as an alternative when all other medications have failed.”

Natural Remedies

  • Hydrate. The excessive sweating and diarrhea that accompany opiate withdrawal can leave a person dangerously dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids can help prevent the additional discomfort that can be caused by dehydration. Dramatically increasing water and electrolyte intake during the recovery process is essential. Electrolytes (calcium, potassium, magnesium) are the minerals most often depleted in an addict. Using an enhanced hydration beverage, such as sports drinks, can help restore some of the electrolytes that are lost when a person is dehydrated.

  • Probiotics in the form of supplements provide your intestines with the “beneficial microflora.” This is the “good bacteria” that protects the gut and is necessary for the normal functioning of your gastrointestinal system. Studies have found that various forms of probiotics, including supplements, can speed up the body’s recovery from diarrhea. Almost no side effects were experienced in the use of probiotics in the research and they were well tolerated, making them a remedy that should be strongly considered.

Healthy Diet

  • Yogurt with active cultures contains bacteria that can help reduce the severity and length of time diarrhea persists. Read the label carefully and choose a brand that does not have a high sugar level and does not contain artificial sweeteners, which can contribute to excessive intestinal gas and loose stools.

  • Soups that are high in sodium (salt) are beneficial. Salt helps you retain water so you don't become dehydrated.

  • BRAT is an acronym for simple foods that are easily digested and assist in treating diarrhea. BRAT stands for bananas, rice (white), applesauce and toast. These are low-fiber foods and can help to make your stools firmer.

    • Bananas also are high in potassium and help to replace nutrients your body has lost because of diarrhea. They are also rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps to absorb liquid in the intestines and thus move stool along smoothly. This can help in slowing down diarrhea. You can even add a banana to a smoothie to increase your intake of calcium and liquids.

    • Plain white rice is easily digested and is high in carbohydrates. Rice is also binding, which means that it can help to firm up your loose stool. If you are having diarrhea, eat your rice plain or cooked in chicken broth.

    • Applesauce is naturally sweetened, but avoid buying the flavored types of applesauce which have increased sugar content and may upset your stomach.

    • Toast is a good source of carbohydrates that are easy to digest. White bread is best because the flavor is milder and there is less fiber to help firm up your stools. Avoid putting butter and jams on your toast. Butter is high in fat and sugary jams can make your stomach feel worse.

Detox Side Effects

Diarrhea isn't something many people feel comfortable talking about. But within days of detoxifying, a combination of debilitating physical and psychological symptoms can overwhelm patients to such an extent that many will relapse. Some say they’d prefer to continue using than face the harshness of detox.

This is a primary reason anyone going through withdrawal should be under the care of a doctor or treatment center. Detox should never be attempted without medical supervision. Doctors and healthcare professionals can prescribe medications and provide guidance to make withdrawal symptoms less intense during the detoxification process, which is the first step on the journey to living a sober life.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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